More than 70 area children have come together in song, dance and art to bring the story of Ariel the mermaid to life. Not only have they learned acting skills, but have worked building sets, creating costumes, and dabbled with stage lighting.
“Under the Sea — Disney The Little Mermaid Jr.” will open Thursday, July 21 and run through Sunday, July 24 at the Liberty Center Association for the Arts. The production is co-sponsored by the Sedalia Parks and Recreation Department and is directed by LCAA theatre veteran Lucy Lemke Clark.
“It’s amazing,” Lemke Clark said. “It’s turned out far better than I could have ever foreseen. Everybody’s involved.”
Lemke Clark cited all the children plus volunteers and LCAA staff and their spouses who have pitched in to bring the production to fruition.
“We had so many people involved who have been so beneficial to the whole program,” she added. “The kids themselves get the opportunity to be guided and be instructed in so many ways of learning through theatre.”
Lemke Clark said theatre is something she’s “passionate” about.
“I think that theatre is so great for young people to delve into something new,” she noted. “To broaden their minds and horizons, to look at something from someone else’s point of view, to put themselves into someone else’s shoes.”
She said theatre also provides needed skills for children they will use as they grow into adulthood.
“It gives them this confidence and self-esteem, people skills, ” Lemke Clark added. “That’s one of the beautiful things about being a director … I get to learn with them too. I’m just as driven by these children … They teach me something new every day.”
Lemke Clark said she has been around LCAA productions since she was a child and she hopes to help recreate fond memories for her young charges.
“I have such memory of doing things here at the theatre,” she noted. “We were so glad to have a place to experiment, a place where we could play. That’s really what it’s about, it’s about a place to play and being OK to play. Kids learn best when they are playing.”
The production is an adaption from the classic 1989 Disney movie “The Little Mermaid” taken from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale story. But unlike the fairy tale, Lemke Clark said it has a happy ending.
“The music is written by the same composers as the movie, so it’s very similar in style,” she said. “We are able to give the kids this experience that they have been watching, they get to be part of what they’ve seen.”
Ariel the mermaid falls in love with a prince and wants to live on land, not the sea.
“She feels out of place in her world,” Lemke Clark said. “She has this great desire to be doing something more or something great. She does get what she wants, and finds that it’s what her heart desires. She gets to be who she really is, she’s true to herself.
“It’s a show that people feel good when they leave,” she added. “They expect the happy ending, but they’re not disappointed. The drama and the dark characters that are in there are true. There is a little bit of darkness out there.”
Practice for the play began June 6 with children ages 8 to 18 years working on the program several days a week. LCAA Executive Director Terri Ballard and LCAA In-House Production Coordinator Courtney Wilken said during practice Open Door Ministries has provided snacks for the children.
In an outreach program, Wilken along with Kate Koenig also helped children at Sunset Trailer Park create an “under the sea” mural for the play. The work is displayed, especially for the production of “The Little Mermaid Jr.,”on the windows of the Joe Fisher Gallery at LCAA. The children at Sunset created the art during the Summer Food Program provided by Open Door.
Wilken and Ballard said the children from Sunset will be bused over to see the show.
Making the production a well-rounded play, Ballard said they had several girls, 3 to 6-years-old, that wanted to be in the production so they created a special part for them.
“We created a mini-mermaid program,” she noted. “There’s about six of them and they’ll do a little pre-show that’s about five minutes long, and they have been doing arts and crafts. They will have little costumes.”
“It’s an educational production,” Wilkens added. “So, the kids have learned how to make costumes, they have learned how to make the set, they are involved in every aspect. We have one that’s designing the lights for a couple scenes. It’s adult-led, but it’s a teaching process.”
“Under the Sea — Disney The Little Mermaid Jr.” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. July 21, 22 and 23 and at 2 p.m. July 24 at LCAA, 111 West Fifth Street. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the LCAA box office or the day of the program. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for children 11 and under.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.